Editorial: Where do we line up to retire at age 52?

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Dorval Carter, new President of the CTA. (Brian Jackson/For The SunTimes)

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Where in the world, outside of government, can someone retire with a six-figure income at age 52 by combining pension credits from two different employers?

Pretty much nowhere.

It’s the kind of thing that makes ordinary workers’ blood boil as hear they’re going to have to pony up big dollars to bail out local and state pension systems.

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The most recent revelation, detailed Sunday by Sun-Times reporter Chris Fusco and Patrick Renkamp and Robert Herguth of the Better Government Association, is that new CTA president Dorval Carter Jr. was collecting a CTA pension of $137,229 a year even as he earned another $146,450 a year as a top U.S. Department of Transportation lawyer. Carter will temporarily forgo his CTA pension now that he has returned to the agency.

Carter followed all the pension rules and by all accounts is a suitable choice to run the CTA. He didn’t create the rules that bumped up his pension.

But that that doesn’t mean taxpayers don’t have something to complain about.

In Carter’s case, why should a government agency pay someone as young as 52 to retire? Most workers these days won’t get a nickel from a pension fund even if they work to age 80.

Why should someone be able to nearly double his pension by combining credits from one job at the CTA and another in the federal government and by “buying” additional credits?

A pension system should be straightforward. You put in your years, and when you retire, you get the money you were promised.

But too often, Springfield and other governments sweeten pension benefits in ways that aren’t immediately clear to everyone. Pension sweeteners fly through under the radar in virtually every session, and the costs add up.

That’s why we see contractors or people who work for private lobbying organizations getting public pensions. Or insiders who get taxpayer-funded pensions just by working one day in a public job. Or people who get pensions based on more years than they actually worked.

Most government workers do their jobs and get a normal pension when they retire. But insiders work the system to get outsized payments when it’s their time to ride off into the sunset.

Or, rather, they ride off at about mid-day, at about age 52, on boat instead of a horse.

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